Help With Study On Divorce

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Jerry Bush | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Apr 7 2013 3:17 PM

Logos friends,

I am going to be preaching a series on divorce and remarriage soon. I want to look at all the scriptures on the subject. There are two blatant situations in the New Testament allowing for remarriage after divorce (adultery and desertion). Here is my issue:

I have had couples where abuse was happening. I am mostly thinking about physical abuse but I recognize that mental/emotional abuse can be just as damaging and even sometimes worse in some situations.

I have never been able to find anything in the Bible to support a spouse divorcing and then being free to remarry in the case of abuse, yet it seems like a no-brainer to me.

Do you know of any good resources that address this sensitive issue? Do you know any scriptures that would allow for this?

How have you handled the situation when you encounter it? I am not looking for anecdotal stories, but a general Biblical principle to apply (even though I understand each situation is different and must be dealt with that way).

By the way, I have read "Remarriage After Divorce In Today's Church: 3 Views" and although an excellent resource, it did not sufficiently address the issue of abuse in marriage.

Thank you in advance. Please do not turn this into a debate. I am just looking for resources, Biblical guidance, and some feedback.

Jerry

iMac (2019 model), 3Ghz 6 Core Intel i5, 16gb Ram, Radeon Pro Graphics. 500GB SSD.

Posts 325
Robert Wazlavek | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 7 2013 4:03 PM

The "blatant" situation of adultery is only blatant if you think it is.  That passage (Matthew 19:3-9) is certainly not as easily interpreted that way as many might think.  Desertion, however, Paul did make clear.

Abuse is very heartbreaking.  Yet, even as you said, there is no direct or explicit biblical support for divorce because of abuse, regardless of what kind it is.  You may think that it's a no-brainer that it is allowed.  But God's standards are higher than man's natural inclinations.

You seem to be pretty set on what you believe even though the biblical support may or may not be there, as you said.  So my 2 cents are that maybe you should reconsider and approach the Scriptures less set on what you think.  That is, let them determine your thinking.

With respect to passages you could look at, I've found that Matthew 18:21-35 to be very convicting with regards to marriage/divorce.  I've read a few times by a few authors that Matthew is said to have grouped a lot of his Gospel topically.  So I find it very interesting that this parable at the end of 18 comes right before discussion on marriage and divorce.  Ephesians 5:21-33 is, of course, critical in understanding divorce.

When counseling a married friend who was going through the painful situation of discovering past adultery committed by his spouse, talking with him about that Matthew 18 parable and Ephesians 5 affected him profoundly.  After truly considering how Christ died for him despite his own spiritual adultery, my friend completely changed his mind, refusing to even consider divorcing his wife as an option.  Jesus refuses to divorce us, His bride.  We should treat our spouses the same.  Despite whatever tremendously horrible pain they put us through.  Ultimately, earthly marriage is first and foremost, itself, a parable to our heavenly marriage to Jesus Christ.  All our actions in marriage should be with this in mind.  (My friend and his wife are doing much better now.  They were able to make it through their rough time.  Rather quickly, in fact.  He was so convicted, we only had to talk once about it.  Granted, I don't think for a second that his case is typical.  Just sharing my experience.)

If one wonders then why desertion alone is allowed, the answer is simple: one spouse cannot stop another spouse from leaving if that's what the latter makes up their mind to do.  A person could be the most Christlike in the world, but that's only half of the relationship.  Both have to commit.  If one decides to leave and cannot be swayed to reconsider, as incredibly sad as it is, nothing can be done (except prayer of course, but such things are in the Father's hands).  However, if a spouse repents of sin (even so much as adultery) and wants to stay together, the two should stay together.

Forgive me if these thoughts of mine aren't what you were/are looking for.  I pray you receive the wisdom you seek concerning marriage and divorce from the Creator and Keeper of wisdom.

Posts 1768
Rick | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 7 2013 4:56 PM

I just finished "Remarriage after Divorce in Today's Church: 3 Views" and the third view took abuse into consideration. If you would like, you can email me at rick68AT vqme.net(not com) and I will send you a few excerpts that I highlighted for you to sample and see if you would like to purchase it.

It is a pretty quick and easy read.

http://www.logos.com/product/16631/remarriage-after-divorce-in-todays-church-3-views

Posts 10636
Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 7 2013 4:59 PM

The 'simple' instances are at least the easiest to track to something in the NT. But in today's society (and I would suspect even in NT times), there's rarely anything 'simple'.  Anecdotal is real-life: I knew a pastor who had to deal with a Christian son-in-law abusing his granddaughters.  And the question from the Christian wife.  His daughter. I really don't know what answer you're looking for Jerry that can overcome telling someone to accept excruciating pain.

"I didn't know God made honky tonk angels."

Posts 18857
Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 7 2013 5:00 PM

Priscilla Papers volume 21 has a very good article on "Clergy Responses to Domestic Violence," with reference to divorce, and with plenty of biblical references to support its conclusions, as well as a bibliography of other helpful Christian books on domestic violence.

Unfortunately PP is only available as part of the Theological Journal Library Volume 13, but you can read that article in entirety online here.

Posts 60
Alan | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 7 2013 5:30 PM

A resource you might consider is 

Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities by David Instone-Brewer.   I do not think it is a logos resource but you can read the reviews on Amazon to see if it is something like you are looking for.  

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Apr 7 2013 5:47 PM

Here is the search result for resources in Logos:

http://www.logos.com/products/search?q=Divorce+and+Remarriage+in+the+Church

That said, please remember that these three states are not synonymous; Separation, Divorce, Divorce & Remarriage. The Bible does not command us to remain in an abusive situation but it does not say remarriage is an option. Some radical feminists teach that all sexual relations in marriage are abuse. Some children think thy are "abused" when you make them attend church, The United Nations agrees with them. Wholesale divorce based on subjective "abuse" is not provided for in the Bible.

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Posts 159
David Matthew | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 5:55 AM

It's not in Logos, but to my mind a breakthrough volume on this subject is David Instone-Brewer's Divorce And Remarriage. 

Posts 170
Bob | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 9:51 AM

Jerry Bush:
There are two blatant situations in the New Testament allowing for remarriage after divorce (adultery and desertion). Here is my issue:

sorry

RLP

Bob - 17" MBP quad 2.3GHz 4GB  and iMAC

Posts 708
Jerry Bush | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 10:49 AM

I hesitate to post things like this on message boards because I seem to be misunderstood often. In my attempt at brevity, perhaps I did not make my intentions clear. Perhaps by responding to a few of you I can clarify my thinking:

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 Robert W. wrote:

The "blatant" situation of adultery is only blatant if you think it is.  That passage (Matthew 19:3-9) is certainly not as easily interpreted that way as many might think.  Desertion, however, Paul did make clear.

Abuse is very heartbreaking.  Yet, even as you said, there is no direct or explicit biblical support for divorce because of abuse, regardless of what kind it is.  You may think that it's a no-brainer that it is allowed.  But God's standards are higher than man's natural inclinations.

You seem to be pretty set on what you believe even though the biblical support may or may not be there, as you said.  So my 2 cents are that maybe you should reconsider and approach the Scriptures less set on what you think.  That is, let them determine your thinking.

Jerry (me) says:

Agreed; Paul is clear on desertion. But what is not clear about Matthew 19? If a spouse commits adultery, the other spouse is free to divorce and possibly remarry. They do not have to, but they are allowed to. What am I missing? I am not asking that in a smug or sarcastic manner. What is a different interpretation of that passage?

I would certainly want reconciliation in these cases when possible, even when the spouse is Biblically free to divorce. Sometimes reconciliation is possible and sometimes it is not.

I should have said abuse is a “no-brainer” in that the spouse should leave the situation – they are in danger. What is not clear from the Bible is the injured spouse allowed to divorce and remarry if she or he wanted to? That is what I am after – Biblical support one way or the other.

Robert, you completely missed what I was saying. I want to know what the Bible says. You accuse me of being “pretty set” on what I believe. I said I wanted Biblical principles, not something that supports my opinion(s).  When I said abuse seems like a no-brainer, I meant that is what it feels like but I want to know what the Word says about it.

 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 Rick wrote:

I just finished "Remarriage after Divorce in Today's Church: 3 Views" and the third view took abuse into consideration.

 Jerry says:

Thanks Rick, but as I said above, I read it and did not feel is sufficiently addressed the issue. Maybe I am wanting something that is just not there. However, I will read that section again. Thanks for your input. It is a very good book.

 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Denise wrote:

The 'simple' instances are at least the easiest to track to something in the NT. But in today's society (and I would suspect even in NT times), there's rarely anything 'simple'.  Anecdotal is real-life: I knew a pastor who had to deal with a Christian son-in-law abusing his granddaughters.  And the question from the Christian wife.  His daughter. I really don't know what answer you're looking for Jerry that can overcome telling someone to accept excruciating pain.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Jerry says:

Wow. I would NEVER ask someone to accept excruciating pain. I am not sure how you got that from what I said, but let me be clear: I would never tell a spouse or child to stay in a dangerous situation. I would help them find shelter, and if needed that shelter would be my own home. I am asking if the Bible would allow divorce and remarriage in that situation, not separation.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Robert Phillips wrote:

A bunch of stuff that made little sense.

 Jerry says:

Robert, in all my years with the Logos boards and the newsgroups before them, I don’t think I have written anything negative to anyone – ever. If someone can refute that, I will admit it here.

I am a Pastor and have been one for 20 years. I have a decent education. I am only saying that to say that I am not an idiot and can follow what people say regardless of agreement or disagreement.

I have tried to craft a closing sentence to respond to your post, but I keep erasing it. So I shall just stop.

 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Everyone else, thank you for the helpful articles and resources. I will check every one of them out. I am still taking suggestions, both resource-wise and thoughts-wise. I want to show all I can from God's Word; hard teachings wrapped in grace.

Jerry

 

iMac (2019 model), 3Ghz 6 Core Intel i5, 16gb Ram, Radeon Pro Graphics. 500GB SSD.

Posts 1791
Tom | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 12:06 PM

David Matthew:

It's not in Logos, but to my mind a breakthrough volume on this subject is David Instone-Brewer's Divorce And Remarriage. 

http://www.divorce-remarriage.com/

I have found this very useful.  http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pe058.htm

www.hombrereformado.org  Solo a Dios la Gloria   Apoyo

Posts 1768
Rick | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 12:24 PM

Jerry Bush:
Thanks Rick, but as I said above, I read it

Whoops, sorry. I must have read right over that when I read your post.  Embarrassed Zip it!

Posts 1791
Tom | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 12:35 PM

Jerry. Hope this will help. http://www.reformedsingles.com/theses-divorce-and-spousal-abuse-dr-greg-bahnsen

You will find Brewster and Bahnsen using differente lines of though, come to the same conclusion.

 

 

 

www.hombrereformado.org  Solo a Dios la Gloria   Apoyo

Posts 50
Randy O'Brien | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 1:02 PM

I have found Craig Blomberg's exegesis of Matt 19 to be very helpful.

Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, And Celibacy: An Exegesis Of Matthew 19:3–12, vol. 11, Trinity Journal Volume 11 (2; Winona Lake, IL: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1990), 159.

This journal is available in Logos.

Posts 4841
David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 1:08 PM

I don't think divorce is as much the problem as remarriage is.

Posts 602
Bill Anderson | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 1:16 PM

Desertion by an unbelieving spouse could possibly apply in instances of abuse or any other serious sin. If the abuser, a professing Christian, is confronted with his/her sin, is unrepentant and cannot be convinced otherwise, our church's and denomination's disciplinary rules would allow the elders of the church to declare the person an unbeliever following the application of Matthew 18. If this abuser also deserted the marriage, then the case would fit into the divorce/remarriage framework.

Posts 1938
David Thomas | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 2:42 PM

Bill Anderson:

Desertion by an unbelieving spouse could possibly apply in instances of abuse or any other serious sin. If the abuser, a professing Christian, is confronted with his/her sin, is unrepentant and cannot be convinced otherwise, our church's and denomination's disciplinary rules would allow the elders of the church to declare the person an unbeliever following the application of Matthew 18. If this abuser also deserted the marriage, then the case would fit into the divorce/remarriage framework.

  I believe Bill is on to something here. It all depends upon defining "unbeliever" and "desertion". Is an unbeliever one who claims to be a believer or one whose life is consistent with those claims? Is it the right of local church elders to make that determination? Can the offended party make that determination? Would the Officiant of the subsequent marriage ceremony have the right to make that determination? Is it possible for a repeat abuser to be a believer (Gal 5:20-21)?   A very loose reading of 1 Cor 7:12-13 passage could reason "by nature of repeated abuse (hatred, discord, fits of rage) the guilty party has proven to have no part in the kingdom of God  (Gal 5:20-21) and has emotionally (if not physically) refused to "live with" his/her spouse as the marital covenant requires."   This may be a broader reading of 1 Cor 7 than your theology allows, but I would never be surprised to hear an abused spouse make this argument to justify divorce and remarriage.   To return this thread to the Forum Guidelines. If  one were to read the resources cited above with this definition of desertion in mind, it may help define a general principle.   To all forum readers: I am NOT saying this is my theology so you have no obligation to correct where you think I may be wrong. I am just offering this as a possible solution to the original post which asked for resources to help craft general principles.

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 8:59 PM

Here's an article on "desertion" that some assume is made clear by Paul (but is it really?)...again, for your consideration on your studies:

Now my take on an abusive relationship is as simple as it gets (we sometimes make it difficult with the "what if's") if they cannot leave together, then let them separate, but let them remain unmarried.  If the abusive partner later goes and commits adultery, then the innocent party can exercise their right to obtain a Scriptural divorce as taught in Matthew 19:9.  But then again, if you feel you need to dig deeper, then do so.  Marriage counseling is sometimes very tough due to the various scenarios that come up and sometimes you wonder "Why am I even trying to counsel this couple?" But hey, pray for wisdom and it will be given to you.  Have a great day! Here's the article:

What Is the Meaning of “Not under Bondage” (1 Cor. 7:15)?

BY WAYNE JACKSON

Would you address First Corinthians 7:15? Does desertion by a non-believing mate grant the abandoned Christian the right of remarriage?

In First Corinthians, chapter 7, the apostle Paul responds to a number of questions that had been submitted to him by various members of the church at Corinth (cf. 1 Cor. 7:1). Some of these queries had to do with the relationship of a believer who is married to an unbeliever.

For example, should the Christian leave the unbeliever? Paul’s answer was in the negative — not if the unbeliever is content to keep on dwelling with the Christian (7:12-13). The “sanctified” environment of a home in which the influence of the gospel is found could lead to the conversion of the heathen partner (7:14; cf. 1 Pet. 3:1).

But what if the unbeliever should not be content to remain with the Christian, and he “departs” (chorizetai, literally “separates himself”)? What should the Christian do? Paul says that the child of God “is not under bondage” in such cases (7:15).

Some have argued that First Corinthians 7:15 provides a second cause for divorce (in addition to the “fornication” of Matthew 5:32; 19:9), and so, by implication, expands Jesus’ teaching, and authorizes a subsequent remarriage on the ground of “desertion” by an unbelieving mate. This view is commonly called the “Pauline privilege.”

The theory certainly is not a new one; it was advocated by Chrysostom (c. A.D. 347-407), one of the so-called “church fathers.” It became a part of Roman Catholic Canon law, and was defended by Martin Luther. This view, we are convinced, is unwarranted and constitutes a compromise of the Lord’s teaching on divorce and remarriage.

A look at the context

First of all, this theory reads into the context that which simply is not there. Here are the facts. Some of the Corinthian saints had been influenced by a proto-Gnostic philosophy which asserted that sexual relations were intrinsically evil. These brethren, therefore, wanted to know the following:

  1. Should a Christian husband and wife separate from (chorizo_) or leave (_aphiemi) each other (10-11)? Paul’s answer was, No; but should a separation occur, celibacy should be maintained, or else a reconciliation effected.
  2. Should a Christian leave his unbelieving mate? Again, Paul’s response was, No; not if the unbeliever is willing to remain with the believer (12-13).
  3. What if the unbeliever initiates a separation? What should the Christian do? Let him go, the apostle says, the Christian is not enslaved to that mate, so that domestic proximity is absolutely required (15). “Divorce” is not under consideration here. The New Testament term for divorce is apoluo (literally, to loose away; cf. Mt. 5:31-32; 19:3,7-9; Mk. 10:2-4,11-12; Lk. 16:18), and that word is meticulously avoided in First Corinthians 7:10-15.

In the second place, Paul makes it clear that the general theme under consideration in this context had not been comprehensively dealt with by the Lord. The Lord had taught concerning some matters — “not I, but the Lord” (v. 10), but not with reference to othermatters — “say I, not the Lord” (v. 12). However, regarding divorce, Christ had spoken comprehensively (note the “whosoever” and “every one” (Mt. 5:31-32; 19:9). Thus, the subject being reviewed in First Corinthians 7:10-15 was not that of divorce.

Thirdly, the word rendered “bondage” (15) is the Greek term douloo, which means “to make a slave of.” Observe how the word is translated in Titus 2:3 — “enslaved to much wine.” Biblically speaking, marriage is never viewed as slavery! The “bondage,” i.e., enslavement, does not refer to the marriage union. If the unbeliever departs, that is not the Christian’s responsibility. The brother or sister is not enslaved to maintain a togetherness(note the allusion of v. 5) at the expense of fidelity to the Lord.

Interestingly, douloo (under bondage) in verse 15 is, in the Greek Testament, a perfect tense form, dedoulotai. The perfect tense denotes a present state resulting from past action. Its force here is this: “was not bound [past action], and is not bound [present state].” The sense of the verse thus is:

Yet if (assuming such should occur) the unbeliever separates himself, let him separate himself: the brother or sister was not [before the departure] and is not [now that the departure has occurred] enslaved ….

Whatever the “bondage” is, therefore, the Christian was not in it, even before the disgruntled spouse left. But the saint was married (and is) to him; hence, the bondage is not the marriage!

Let the reader substitute the word “marriage” for “bondage,” giving the full force to the perfect tense (i.e., “has not been married, and is not married”) and the fallacy of viewing the bondage as the marriage itself will be apparent.

First Corinthians 7:15 does not expand upon the Savior’s teaching with reference to divorce and remarriage, as much as some wish that it were so.

Note

Some contend that the term chorizo is used in verse 15 of divorce. The word is related to choris which means “separately, apart, by itself.” Chorizo simply means to “divide” or “separate” (cf. Rom. 8:35; Heb. 7:26; Philem. 15).

The term is generic, and thus may include divorce, as Matthew 19:6 indicates, but there is no indication that it means divorce in First Corinthians 7:10-11, 15 (though some lexicographers, leaving their areas of expertise and assuming the role of commentators, have so designated it).

Professor Lewis Johnson notes: “It is true that the verb ‘to depart’ in the middle voice [it is middle in verse 15] was almost a technical term for divorce in the papyri … This, however, really proves nothing here” (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Charles Pfeiffer & Everett Harrison, Eds., Chicago: Moody, 1962, p. 1240).

Addendum: Additional Testimony Regarding First Corinthians 7:15

“We are not, however, to suppose … that the marriage was, in such a case, ipso facto dissolved, so that the believing party might contract a fresh one. This is alike at variance with the letter and spirit of our Lord’s decision (Matt. 5:32); and, indeed, with the Apostle’s own words in this Chapter … the conjugal union is not to be dissolved by reason of difference in religion; yet if the unbelieving party be disposed to separate, the believing party may blamelessly submit to such separation” (S. T. Bloomfield, The Greek New Testament With English Notes, Boston: Perkins & Marvin, 1837, II, p. 119).

“If the heathen husband or wife is resolved upon separation, they must be allowed to separate. The Christian is not a slave in such matters, although the Christian’s duty is to labor for peace and agreement. The separation here spoken of is not a separation allowing the Christian man or woman to marry again during the lifetime of the heathen spouse. It is separation, not divorce” (J.R. Woodford, “The Epistles to the Corinthians,” Commentary on the New Testament, New York: E. & J.B. Young, 1881).

“In such circumstances, where the unbeliever was unwilling for cohabitation, the believing partner did not need to feel bound to persist in seeking reconciliation since God’s calling was to peace, not discord …” (M. J. Harris, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Colin Brown, Ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971, III, p. 535).

“Many have supposed that this means that they would be at liberty to marry again when the unbelieving wife or husband had gone away; … But this is contrary to the strain of the argument of the apostle” (Albert Barnes, First Corinthians, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1956, p. 119).

“We cannot safely argue with Luther that ou dedoulotai implies that the Christian partner, when divorced by a heathen partner, may marry again … All that ou dedoulotaiclearly means is that he or she is not so bound by Christ’s prohibition of divorce as to be afraid to depart when the heathen partner insists on separation” (Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, I Corinthians, International Critical Commentary, Edinburgh, T.&T. Clark 1958, p. 143).

“Paul has not said in that verse (7:15) or anywhere else that a Christian partner deserted by a heathen may be married to someone else. All he said is: ‘If the unbeliever departeth, let him depart: the brother or the sister is not under bondage (dedoulotai) in such cases: but God hath called us in peace.’ To say that a deserted person ‘hath not been enslaved’ is not to say that he or she may be remarried. What is meant is easily inferred from the spirit that dominates the whole chapter, and that is that everyone shall accept the situation in which God has called him just as he is … If an unbelieving partner deserts, let him or her desert. So remain” (C. Caverno, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, Ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939, II, p. 866).

“… What does ‘not in bondage’ mean? The fathers, at least to some extent, the Catholic and older Protestant interpreters, understood it to mean not in bondage to keep up the marriage connection, and hence, at liberty to contract a new one. The interpretation has had wide effects. In the canonical law a believing partner was allowed, if thrust away by an infidel one, to marry again; and as the early Protestant theologians extended the rule, by analogy, to malicious desertion in Christian lands, an entrance-wedge was here driven into the older ecclesiastical laws, and much of the shocking facility of divorce in some Protestant countries has flowed from this source. But we reject the interpretation. We hold … that the apostle means ‘not under bondage’ to keep company with the unbeliever at all events, without having the thought of remarriage in mind. This must be regarded, we think, as settled by the soundest modern exegesis” (McClintock, John & Strong, James, Eds.,Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological & Ecclesiastical Literature, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968, II, p. 841).

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 9:21 PM

DAL:

Thirdly, the word rendered “bondage” (15) is the Greek term douloo, which means “to make a slave of.” Observe how the word is translated in Titus 2:3 — “enslaved to much wine.” Biblically speaking, marriage is never viewed as slavery! The “bondage,” i.e., enslavement, does not refer to the marriage union. If the unbeliever departs, that is not the Christian’s responsibility. The brother or sister is not enslaved to maintain a togetherness(note the allusion of v. 5) at the expense of fidelity to the Lord.

1 Cor. 7:27, 39

Hmm

The staggering thing here is...IT'S IN THE SAME CHAPTER!

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Apr 8 2013 9:33 PM

David Paul:

I don't think divorce is as much the problem as remarriage is.

I agree.

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